Fireworks

Firefest 2011 - The Review

FIREFEST 2011 – Nottingham, October 21st, 22nd and 23rd


Review by Phil Ashcroft (PA), Bruce Mee (BLM), Gary Marshall (GM), Paul Jerome Smith (PJS), Monica Castedo-Lopez (MCL), Steven Reid (SR), Duncan Jamieson (DJ), Ray Paul (RP) and Ant Heeks (AH).

Photos by Sue Ashcroft
& Marty Moffatt


(Click here to read the full review for Firefest VI, and here for the Firefest 2010 review)


Friday 21st October – Rock City, Nottingham

The eighth Firefest show in as many years once again had the aficionados of quality AOR and melodic rock assembling in vast numbers for the hotly anticipated weekend. For the very first time the festival presented an array of 18 bands, while the Friday night show was also held at the Rock City venue (the same one as for the other days of the festival) for the very first time, as the show had sold out the initially advertised venue very quickly…

Serpentine


The honour of opening the latest annual Firefest fell to British AOR act Serpentine, a band that had created a huge impact with their 2010 Tony Mills (Shy/Siam/TNT) led debut album ‘A Touch Of Heaven’. Mills was also in place for this year’s follow up effort ‘Living And Dying In High Definition’. However before its release one time Invisible Idols front man Matt Black took the position behind the microphone, debuting with the band on their recent UK tour.

The title track to the debut album ‘A Touch Of Heaven’ kicked the set off in fine style, with its atmospheric slow build drawing the crowd into Nottingham’s Rock City so that by the time the song kicked into full flow the hall was nearly full. Black may not have the pedigree, presence, or in truth vocal power of his predecessor, however his voice still packs a mighty wallop and while few singers can really reach the stratospheric notes of Tony Mills, Black does indeed give it a good shot. Add to that an easy stage manner and sharp sense of humour and it is easy to forgive that his voice did become a little “whiny” as he strained to reach those high notes. That said Serpentine are far from a one man show with the keyboard and guitar interplay between Gareth David Noon and Chris Gould respectively, being the main focal point behind the Serp’s sound, with the hard-hitting up-beat rockers like ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Lonely Nights’ being underpinned by a melodic sheen that the Firefest crowd lapped up.

Serpentine


Maybe it is because they are more used to playing on smaller stages, but if there was to be one criticism of the Serpentine live experience, it is that they are not exactly the most mobile of bands (although if I was to be super critical, their reliance on synthesized backing vocals was also a little irritating). Black was happy rooted to centre stage while Gould and bassist Gareth Vanstone didn’t stray far from their initial spots either. ‘Cry’ gave Gould the opportunity to fire out a blazing solo, proving that he is a particularly fine guitarist who injects a huge amount of passion into his style, although both this song and the third track of the night from ‘Living And Dying...’ did highlight the sameness of a lot of Serpentine’s songs.

Saving the best for last ‘Whatever Heartache’ had the crowd in full voice and while Serpentine may have provided a more solid than spectacular start to this year’s Firefest, it was clear that they’d done their job and warmed the audience up nicely. With Tony Mills now in the band’s past (performance wise anyway), the real test for Serpentine will be what they come up with for album number three with Matt Black in full control of the vocals. However on tonight’s showing they have the potential to return to the Firefest stage in years to come in a much more prestigious slot. (SR)

Houston


The second of the four bands at this year’s Firefest that might be considered amongst the bright young things of the melodic rock scene were next to arrive onto the stage to pulsating intro music, lead vocalist Hank Erix (dressed initially in a rather cheesy silk boxer’s robe) surprising those present who had not caught the band on their fairly extensive tours earlier in the year. The self-titled debut album provided all but one of the songs they offered here, the upcoming covers release ‘Relaunch’ yielding the other.

‘I’m Alive’ (“The journey has just begun…”) proved to be a great opener and yielded an enthusiastic response from an expectant audience. However, from where I was standing, although the sound was generally excellent, the backing vocals were largely inaudible, although these were brought into greater prominence as the set progressed. The heavenly, keyboard-laden refrains of ‘Hold On’ with its fabulous chorus and then the more contemplative and initially subdued ‘1000 Songs’ were bundled together which rather muted reaction, but the momentum was once again heightened by ‘Chasing The Dream’ (one of the two bonus songs on the reissued version of the debut album), with the crowd in good voice as they joined in with “still got the fire…so call me crazy…” Again there was great audience interaction during ‘Misery’ (…”that’s something to believe in…” they joined in singing…) and by now the harmony vocals from Freddie Allen behind the drum kit were also loud and clear!

Houston


The band’s producer Ricky Delin joined the band for ‘Don’t You Know What Love Is’ from the aforementioned ‘Relaunch’ disc. This extraordinary Mark Mangold / Touch song is absolutely tailor-made for the band and the performance of it was superb (my notes highlighting the tremendous lead guitar and keyboard performances in particular). Phil Ashcroft mentioned to me that when on tour earlier in the year Hank Erix’s vocals had somewhat faltered after about four songs, but on ‘Under Your Skin’ he successfully hit falsetto notes without a problem: demonstrating the value of practice and increasing experience. This song incorporates another of those delicious choruses (“I’m crawling under your skin tonight...”) and again the audience joined in and gave a mighty cheer at its conclusion. The set concluded with ‘Truth Slips’ but there was a slight pause at the commencement of this as the click track was readied.

Houston’s set was a qualified success: they certainly have a fantastic selection of songs and in front man Hank Erix they have a charismatic individual, whose vocalisations have strengthened considerably from their earlier performances. He and drummer Freddie Allen now seem to have a stable group of capable musicians to support them, but they do need to work on stage presence as the antics of certain guitarists was truly embarrassing! They also need to be slicker in their usage of pre-recorded supporting material. However, this was a good performance by a band that has loads of potential: and I (amongst many) expect this to be fulfilled in coming years. (PJS)

Terry Brock


After the youthful exuberance of Serpentine and Houston it was time for the more sophisticated style of melodic rock for which Terry Brock is renowned. For me, Terry possesses one of the greatest voices of the genre and he has a languid style that makes it all look so ridiculously effortless. Tonight his backing band was comprised of the members of Valentine who proved to be perfect for the job as they supported Terry in very fine fashion for what was a lovely set of classy Rock.

From my vantage point on the balcony the sound wasn’t as pristine as one would have hoped or indeed as it had been at last year’s event when the brilliant Pontus Norgren was behind the mixing desk and produced the best sound at any Firefest thus far. There was a rather muddy feel to the sound and certainly too much bass on Friday evening which meant that some of the vocal nuances were lost in the mix and the guitar solos were, for the most part, barely audible. Clearly, with the type of music Terry plays it’s the subtle touches that are all important.

Terry-Brock


They opened with the wonderful ‘Face in the Crowd’ with its terrific chorus before following this with an equally pleasing ‘Another Chance’. The laid back feel continued with ‘The Rain’ and ‘Love Will Find a Way’ and just as it felt like the pace needed a bit of a kick we got one in the form of ‘Broken’. The intro to the song was extended to give the band the chance to really rock and in my notes I wrote ‘Black Sabbath’ as they showed they could do ‘heavy’. Shortly after I also wrote the word ‘choruses’ because every song had had a great chorus that defied one not to sing along. ‘Diamond Blue’ featured superb harmonies before Terry recounted his time with The Sign by playing ‘Forever Again’, which for me was one of the highlights of the performance.

The heavier feel returned with ‘No More Mister Nice Guy’ which lost some definition due to a rather dense sound which meant the instrumentation tended to merge into a wall of sound. The swaying ‘Coming Home’ took the pace down again before, in a nice tribute to his backing band, the set concluded with a Valentine song, ‘Soul Salvation’, which I have to say was given a real lift by having the power of Terry’s considerable voice behind it.

Some might say that overall the set was a little too laid back, but I was just happy to hear the inimitable Mr. Brock sing once more. (GM)

Jimi Jamison


After his triumphant appearance at Firefest 2010, it was no surprise that Jimi Jamison was invited back to headline the opening evening of this year’s event. As was the case last year his backing band comprised of Tommy Denander (guitar) and fellow Swedes and members of H.E.A.T, Jimmy Jay (bass), Jona Tee (keyboards) and Magnus Ulfstedt (drums) who once again played to the very highest standard.

The crowd reaction raised the roof as Jimi took to the stage and immediately plunged into a splendid rendition of ‘It’s the Singer, Not the Song’, which featured a terrific solo from Denander. That splendid start was reinforced by an equally great rendition of ‘Burning Heart’ and the classic songs just kept on coming as Jamison and the band delivered the goods. It’s fair to say that Jimi didn’t hit every note perfectly but he’s still got the power and stage presence to overcome that and it didn’t seem that it bothered the crowd too much as they lapped it up. I wondered if we would get some different songs in the set from last time and we didn’t have to wait too long for that to happen as we were treated to ‘First Time’ from Survivor’s ‘Vital Signs’ album, which was a treat to behold as was the following song ‘Desperate Dreams’ which kept the alternation of songs from that album and ‘Too Hot to Sleep’ going. The trend was maintained with ‘High On You’ so it was classics all the way to this point with the crowd treating each song with huge cheers and their own participation.

Jimi


Jimi then introduced us to a song (‘Chasing Euphoria’) from the album he had just released with Bobby Kimball and a combination of a rather muddy mix and a lack of familiarity with the song meant that it felt like the head of steam the set had developed was somewhat dissipated. It was around this time that the set seemed to lose its momentum as several less well known songs to many were played back to back, including Cobra’s ‘Blood On Your Money’, and it was also around this point that Jimi seemed to be struggling just a bit in hitting the big notes thus increasing the feeling that a lull had occurred. It might have worked better had these songs been interspersed with the more well known numbers rather than being kept together. However after this it was back to the classic songs until the end. Denander got his moment in the spotlight with a solo spot, which started slowly but built into something quite special. He may not look like a Rock star but he certainly plays like one. Of particular note during the final section of the show were ‘Oceans’ and ‘Rebel Son’ both of which were delivered with great clarity by the band.

It wouldn’t have taken a genius to predict what would comprise the last two songs of the evening’s entertainment, namely the Baywatch theme ‘I’m Always Here’ and ‘Eye of the Tiger’ which saw the crowd singing along and bouncing up and down. On the former song two guests appeared on stage, Hank Erix (Houston) and producer Ricky B. Delin who provided additional backing vocals. The Firefest stage crew then pulled a prank as they appeared from the wings dressed in Baywatch t-shirts and carrying surf boards. More people joined the band on stage for the finale: a suitably rousing rendition of Survivor’s biggest hit. Clearly the crowd enjoyed what they heard judging by the cheers that echoed around the venue as the band took their bow.

Firefest Friday was over and not only had it run exactly to time thanks to seamless changeovers but it had also been a triumph with all the four bands providing some excellent entertainment. (GM)




Saturday 22nd October – Rock City, Nottingham

Talon


It can’t be easy being the opening band for the Saturday or Sunday sessions of Firefest and the unenviable task of getting a sleepy lunch time crowd going fell to the lovely guys of LA based Talon on day two of the event. No one can accuse them of giving anything less than 100%; and as the hall filled it was clear that the audience were having the metaphorical cobwebs blown away by Talon’s keen riffing, energy and enthusiasm, so in that respect they did a good job.

As friends of both ‘The Gods’ and ‘Firefest’ it’s always a pleasure to see Talon in attendance and it is one of those curiosities as to why they’ve never made a bigger impact on the scene, but such are the vagaries of the music business. The return of the band’s original front man, Michael O’Mara (temporarily standing in for the band’s newly recruited vocalist Shawn Pelata) certainly gave the band a boost as not only does he have a great set of pipes he also looked like a “Rock Star” and he prowled the stage with great purpose. I rate him much higher than Chandler Mogel with whom he’s shared the lead vocal role. There is something of Tracy White (Shotgun Symphony) about O’Mara and that is a real compliment as far as I’m concerned. He realised quite early on that the crowd weren’t particularly responsive, probably because many hadn’t paced themselves for the long weekend by enjoying the late night Melodic Rock Club after the previous day’s show, and he threw in the towel with trying to engage them directly.

Talon


What I like most about the band is the wonderful riffing of Kory Voxen and Jim Kee who clearly know their instruments and give the songs impetus which really gets the air guitarists flexing their fingers. John Parker gave his usual powerhouse display on the drums while Phil Keller was splendid on bass, even if he was a little too high in the mix and therefore dominated proceedings at times. Unfortunately, the mix also affected Eric Ragno’s keyboards which were pretty much inaudible throughout the set; the backing vocals were too low in the mix during the early part of the set which was a huge shame as they are an important part of the band’s overall sound.

As to highlights, I particularly enjoyed ‘What About Me’ and ‘Mother Mary, May I’ whilst the parting shot of ‘Wrecking Ball’ was a rousing way to finish a show and by the time they left they stage they’d certainly helped bring the crowd out of their torpor. (GM)

VEGA


The crowd - comfortably filling the Rock City auditorium - enthusiastically welcomed the sextet (the recording band plus the usual live band additions of guitarist Nick Horne and bassist Rob Wylde) five minutes earlier than their designated start time. The keyboard-heavy introduction to ‘Into The Wild’ was very much a call to arms from this accomplished band, whose debut album (from which all eight songs they played were taken) also beginning with this number. Not only did Vega demonstrate superbly that they have the songs, they also showed they have developed a confident stage presence, with vocalist Nick Workman really knowing how to engage with his audience. It’s been a long time coming, but I feel that at long last he has found the context in which to fully display his talents: not only as an excellent vocalist but also as an accomplished songwriter (and that despite the wonderful song-writing twins James and Tom Martin also being members of Vega!)

Vega


It did not take long for the crowd to switch into singalong mode: a testament to the quality of the material on the debut album, but also to the hard work put into live performances by the band since its release barely twelve months previously. Whilst I had seen the band play earlier in the year, I was quite transfixed by the quality of what I was hearing and seeing as one magnificent song after another engaged the audience and had them joining in (and me as well, it has to be admitted!) The lead guitar of Nick Horne and the bass guitar of Rob Wylde were a revelation as was their harmony vocalisations. The “beefy” drums of Dan Chantrey also caught they eyes (and ears); he was clearly making the most of performing in his home city!

Having ensured that the Saturday crowd was fully awakened from any outstanding Friday night blues, Workman declared “let’s drive this Firefest wild” and so it was as the (by now) adoring fans contributed their “oh oh oh” and “woo oh oh” refrains to the choruses of ‘A.N. Other’. ‘Headlights’ had the crowd clapping along, and my thoughts focused on what a great, anthemic song this was in a festival setting, as indeed ‘Hearts Of Glass’ also proved to be. The (in my opinion) slightly more ordinary ‘Stay With Me’ only served to elevate ‘Kiss Of Life’ as a marvellous song with which to conclude a truly memorable and remarkable debut Firefest appearance. Vega is a band that really has the opportunity of carving out a significant career within the melodic rock sphere. They “nailed” this performance, and subsequent discussion has frequently placed it as one of the top five of the entire weekend: an assertion with which I do not disagree! (PJS)

Silent Rage


Having been a Silent Rage fan since the release of their ‘Rebel With a Cause’ album, this was a real treat to see the guys in action on stage. The band look better in my opinion than their more glam heyday (which I felt never suited them) and I felt their sound was always closer to Dokken than to Poison.

Opening with ‘I’m On Fire’ it was clear the sound man had done a great job and the band sounded tight, with Jesse Damon’s vocals both strong and clear. It is always hard to judge how many people in attendance are familiar with some of the bands’ performing, but it was clear they have a fan base when they launched into ‘Don’t Touch Me There’ and the sea of hands punched the air. The most visual member of the band is E.J.Curse and the man looked every inch the rock ‘n’ roll pin up as he ran around the stage, all hair and muscles. He exchanged smiles with Jesse Damon as they played back to back and shared vocals. What I find always so satisfying is watching the looks on a band members faces as they react to the welcome Firefest gives them, and it was no exception here. With only a short amount of time allocated they kept the conversation down and blasted into playing ‘Make It’ and ‘Sarina’.

Silent-Rage


The surprise of the show came in the shape of a rendition of the ELO classic ‘Can’t Get it Out Of My Head’ and it was delivered in fine fashion considering it was the first time the band had played it since 1989. ‘Four Letter Word’ from the release of the same name gave Brian James a chance to display his effective lead guitar work and by this time the audience were heading to the front from all corners to check the band out more closely. E.J.Curse introduced the wonderful ‘Running on Love’ from the ‘Don’t Touch Me There’ release and mentioned the band may have to re-release this CD because it is hard to get hold of. A job for the Rock Candy label maybe? The very Kiss-sounding ‘I Wanna Feel It’ (which I believe was a Joe Lynne Turner co-write) had everyone singing along to its bouncing chorus.

The band brought their all-to-brief show to an end with the classic ‘Rebel With A Cause’, a song many over the age of thirty will remember from when MTV actually played new rock videos!! All In all, it was a solid set that combined hard rocking with great melodies and was well received. No doubt, their performance will have a lot of people seeking out the band’s past releases, especially if this had been their introduction to Silent Rage. (RP)

Jeff Paris


After the visual stage craft of the preceding bands, Jeff Paris’s entrance was low key by comparison. Initially looking slightly ungainly and nervous, even diffident, his t-shirt with its gold lame pattern on the front was the only hint that the man was there to rock. His backing band was the same one that ripped it up on the previous night with Jimi Jamison. Guitarist Tommy Denander is Mr Dependable, and it was no surprise that everyone wants to work with him. He played the songs here so effortlessly: as if he had written them himself. The others (as mentioned previously) were from the young Swedish band H.E.A.T. and it was great to see this younger generation add their youthful exuberance to the music of the elder statesman. The mood was best summed up by the beaming face of bassist Jimmy Jay, whom Paris described jokingly, in rhyme as, “The ace on the bass, with the baby face.”

It took until the end of the set opener ‘Race To Paradise’ for Paris to really warm up to his task but by the time he reached the conclusion of the song he had hit his stride, sounding just like the Paris of old. His overwrought (in a good way) voice wrought emotion out of his top drawer AOR tunes. Visibly loosening up on ‘Mystery Girl’ he even did a spot of dancing, albeit “dad dancing” and his attempt to swing his mic in a rock ‘n’ roll manner was unlikely to give Roger Daltrey any sleepless nights. He’s self effacing, and his between song banter was amusing and raised a smile. The band took on ‘Charmed Life’, and this reminded those who knew it already what a great song it is; no wonder Vixen had a hit in the USA with it. The upbeat, hedonistic and downright fun of the 80s seeped out of every pore of this song. By the time he sang ‘Open Your Heart’, the crowd had opened their hearts and had really warmed to him. Aware the audience is on his side Paris grew ever more confident, and goaded the crowd with, “Want some more?” as he went into ‘One Night Alone’ another song from ‘Wired Up’, the album from the peak of his career. Its aching lyric perfectly suited to Paris’s voice and then followed the perfect full-on rock song for a Saturday night…‘Saturday Nite’ of course!

Jeff-Paris


The growing bond between audience and singer grew when he played a short acoustic set dedicated to two great musicians we’d lost this year: Jani Lane and Ronnie James Dio. He played a sincere version of Warrant’s ‘I Saw Red’, the acoustic setting adding warmth, and was the most intimate any of the bands had been so far today. His version of Dio’s ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ exposed the song as the AOR song that we always secretly knew it was. When the band returned Paris was feistier and proclaimed there were songs to sing and “new girlfriends to find.” He threw himself into ‘Back On My Knees’, dropping to his own knees to sing the chorus and get the sentiment of the song across. Other standouts were ‘Cryin’’ which again plundered ‘Wired Up’ and went down well with the crowd, as his plaintive vocals worked a treat while ‘I Can’t Let Go’ was worthy of a sing along. The set finished strongly with a rousing version of party anthem ‘Wired Up’.

His quirky humour and gently inhibited manner puzzled a few but I thought he was great and his songs had lost nothing of their potency over the last twenty or so years (although I would have loved to hear something from his criminally overlooked ‘Smack’ album). Best of all, Paris mentioned that he and Tommy Denander are to work on a record together which suggests Paris’s star is, deservedly, on the rise again. (DJ)

W.E.T.


Ironic as it may seem, a big thank you is due to Warrant for cancelling at the last minute and leaving the Firefest crew to pull all their strings to find someone as exciting, if not more so, then the Cherry Pie band. I for one was taken aback at hearing the news about this withdrawal, but gentle persuasion was useful and what seemed to be impossible, just happened! Up until then and with no immediate plans to tour given the busy schedules of its component members, W.E.T. made their inaugural performance earlier than they (or anyone) anticipated and what a seamless performance they achieved!

Comprised by Robert Säll of Work of Art (hence the W in W.E.T.), Erik Mårtensson of Eclipse (hence the E) and Jeff Scott Soto of Talisman (hence the T), the band’s debut album, and so far only album, was released in 2009 and took the melodic/hard rock world by storm. Joining Soto on vocals, Mårtensson on bass and Säll on keyboards were Magnus Henriksson (also of Eclipse) on lead guitars and the young Robban Bäck on drums. Having both recorded the W.E.T. album, this just made perfect sense and glorious music enveloped the expectant audience.

 The set kicked off with one of the grandest tracks on the self-titled album: ‘Brothers In Arms’, and although the sound could certainly have been improved (through no fault of their own, the drums slightly overshadowed the vocals and keyboards) this was just the beginning of an unforgettable show. The confidence and power Mr Soto displays onstage indisputably positions him at the forefront of the leading rock singers of all time. Perhaps he hasn’t yet reached stardom outside of his faithful fans, but his tenure in Journey certainly exposed him to many new eyes and ears around the globe. Speaking of Journey, given that Steve Augeri, another former Journey singer was on the bill later, it would have been a bonus to see them both at the end of the night sharing the mic. Although such an event did not materialise, both performances were awesome.

WET

 
Next on the repertoire were another three magnificent tracks from the W.E.T. debut recording: ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’, ‘Invincible’ and ‘My Everything’, showcasing throughout extraordinary guitar work from the fingers of Henriksson and equally outstanding playing from the rest of the band, which appeared to be brilliantly tight despite the nerve-wrecking experience this must have been for them, just having a few last minute rehearsals prior to this show. With only the one album released so far, it became pretty obvious that the boys would throw in one or two surprises, and this was the time for it as ‘My Everything’ was followed by the Eclipse track ‘To Mend A Broken Heart’. For this the line-up was re-arranged (as it was later in the set for Work of Art’s ‘The Great Fall’) so that Erik took over the vocal duties, Jeff stood on keyboards, and Robert swapped the keys for guitar strings to become the second guitarist. It must be highlighted that Erik’s enthusiasm was obvious and showed an immaculate vocal performance on both occasions.

 Re-arranging again to the initial formation, the gigantic mellow ‘One Day At A Time’ preceded ‘If I Fall’, spiced with yet another breathtaking guitar solo. But the best of the set was still to come with the colossal ‘Comes Down Like Rain’, which with the accompanying light effects and the singing from the audience made it truly special and totally captured the essence of the album recording. As Jeff said before the next piece of heaven, over the last few years we have lost many great artists along the way, and paying their respects, the band proceeded to perform an acoustic medley tribute, comprising of excerpts from Gary Moore, Dio Y&T and Warrant, before the American singer was left on his own to sit on a stool with an acoustic guitar to play a compelling and heartfelt homage to his deceased band mate in Talisman, the virtuoso bass player Marcel Jacob, with ‘Mysterious’. Shortly after, the rest of the group rejoined to finish the song in a full-on electric rendition.

To end their set, the US/Swedish outfit chose ‘One Love’, a justly fantastic closer, where Soto’s forgetting a line was totally excusable, as the audience clapped in gratitude to have witnessed the first live show of a band for which many had been waiting for two years. Not only did we experience much of the W.E.T. repertoire, but also songs from all three bands giving the name to this imperial outfit. Jeff, Robert, Erik, Magnus and Robban: excellently done! Let this not be a one-off show... (MCL)


Strangeways


After their triumphant comeback appearance at last year’s festival, it was inevitable that Strangeways would be invited back for another appearance. However, this time around the band would be performing the classic 1988 album ‘Walk In The Fire’ in its entirety, as last year only two tracks from it were featured in the set. And also bassist David Stewart had returned to the line-up for this year’s show, alongside the stalwarts Ian J Stewart on guitar, drummer Jim Drummond, keyboard player Dave “Munch” Moore, and of course vocalist extraordinaire Terry Brock.

As the band hit the stage to tumultuous applause and launch into opener ‘Where Are They Now’ it was apparent that Terry Brock was having problems with his voice. He was clearly struggling with a cold, which he openly revealed to the audience, and of course he also performed a solo set the previous night, which may not have helped matters. However, even a less than perfect Terry Brock voice is still better than many more well-known vocalists, and he soldiered on relentlessly, and the crowd willingly appreciated his efforts and helped him out whenever they could. It seemed to be the harder-edged songs like ‘Danger In Your Eyes’ and ‘Living In The Danger Zone’ that Terry struggled with the most, but he seemed to be able to handle the ballads much better. He also performed without using his guitar for the first six or seven songs, maybe so he could just concentrate and put more effort into his singing? As for the rest of the band, they just went about their business like the professionals they are, and the vocal harmonies they delivered were about as perfect as they could be, even Jim Drummond was singing. David Stewart just seemed to be happy to be back on stage again, and Ian Stewart is one of those guitarists who delivered absolutely stunning solos with what seemed like very minimal effort and fuss.

Strangeways


The magnificent ‘Love Lies Dying’ was always going to be a high spot in a Strangeways set, while ‘Talk To Me’ and ‘Modern World’ weren’t far behind. When introducing the gorgeous ‘Every Time You Cry’ Terry reveals that the song was written for his younger sister when she was going through a bad time in her life, and that she was present upon Rock City’s balcony having made her first ever trip outside the U.S.A. to travel to Nottingham to hear Terry sing the song. While the band were performing the song she managed to make her way through the crowd and was ushered onto the stage at it’s finale – a nice touch.

The set drew to a close with the atmospheric title track of the album, then the beautiful ballad ‘After The Hurt Is Gone’, and the band left the stage, with the performance of the album completed. And therein is my only complaint about the set. As wonderful as the ‘Walk In The Fire’ album is, the tempo throughout the album is very mid-paced, and I was not convinced that performing it in its entirety translated that well to the stage, as I felt that the set could have done with a few more up-tempo selections.

But of course, after the withdrawal of Warrant, Strangeways were elevated to the special guest slot, which meant they were allowed an extra ten minutes or so on stage, so it was no surprise that they were soon ushered back on for a couple of selections from the ‘Native Sons’ album. Last year Kieran Dargan insisted that the song they HAD to play was ‘Only A Fool’ as Terry recalled to the eager audience, so it was only right that they played it once again, and the huge cheer signified that it was the correct decision. Then after some crafty plugging by Terry of the DVD of last year’s show that was on sale at the merchandise desk entitled ‘Where Do We Go From Here’, it was the song of the same name that brought the set to a rousing finish. Perhaps the performance wasn’t quite as memorable as last year’s, but it was still great to have Strangeways back, and the announcement by Mr. Brock that they plan to stay around for as long as possible was a very welcome one indeed. (AH)

Steve Augeri


This was to be Steve Augeri’s second appearance at Firefest, the previous being with the reformed Tall Stories two years ago. With Warrant pulling out at short notice, Steve was moved up to the headline slot for Saturday and his set length increased, which was no bad thing in my book. Dressed in white shirt and black scarf, Steve looked as always the classic front man as he took the stage, armed with a white acoustic guitar. He began the show with Tyketto’s ‘Jamie’. Backed by the band Valentine, it was a peculiar number to begin with and there were a lot of puzzled faces wondering what kind of set this would turn out to be.

We did not need to worry as the keys to ‘Separate Ways’ woke everyone up and the song metaphorically took the roof off Rock City as everyone sang along. Having a female backing singer on stage helped beef up the top end of the choruses and gave the vocals a more organic sound rather than the usual over-used taped backing so many bands favour these days. ‘Ask The Lonely’ followed and despite Steve’s well-documented vocal issues he seemed to be improving as the set went on. A good example of this was on ‘Higher Place’ and a wonderful rendition of ‘Kiss Me Softly’ from the overlooked Arrival release. Special mention should go to Gerard Zappa on bass and vocals and Adam Holland’s note perfect work on the Journey numbers.

Augeri


‘Stone in Love’ began with Steve and an acoustic guitar as he played a bluesy rendition before the familiar guitar intro began and for me was one of the bands best moments. This was to be a career retrospective and Tall Stories ‘Sister of Mercy’ was a nice feature of the set and Steve gave this a real Led Zeppelin vibe in his delivery. Some new songs from the up and coming solo record were aired and had a very early 70’s style to them and were quite similar in style to the material from Tall Stories ‘’Skyscraper’’ release. Despite Arnel Pineda being a superior singer for Journey, I do miss Steve Augeri’s stage presence and connection with the audience and it’s clear from the reception he got, he is missed as a front man and artist. Hopefully shows such as this will kick start a regular supply of music released from Steve in the future.

If I have a slight criticism of the set it was that the set relied heavily on Perry era Journey material, ‘Lights’ worked very well but I could have done without ‘Faithfully’ and the tedious ‘Loving Touching Squeezin’ which is little more than a blues work out designed for crowd participation that seemed to go on forever! Something like ‘Faith in the Heartland’ or ‘Place in Your Heart’ would have been just as well received, I feel. Steve has a hardcore audience that know all his material and he should not have to fall back on so many Journey standards, with which he was not involved.

We all kind of knew what the final song would be and the familiar piano intro of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ the most overplayed/covered song in years proved us right.

With that everyone sang along and I imagine the whole of Nottingham must have heard us! A final encore of ‘Separate Ways’ (again!) brought a triumphant show to a climactic end and as I looked and listened to everyone as they left it was clear no one was disappointed. (RP)

 
Sunday, 23rd October – Rock City, Nottingham

 

Newman


Newman was the third band to make a quick-fire return to this year’s Firefest stage (after Jimi Jamison and Strangeways), with their 11th hour call-up being the result of Far Cry sadly being unable to attend. That said considering that Newman all but swept last year’s competition away, it was a welcome return and one that Steve Newman and his merry-men certainly did not waste. With Newman essentially being a one-man-band in the studio Steve wisely chose to resurrect the band that won so many admirers at last year’s show, with keyboard player Paul Boyle, bassist Dave Bartlett and drummer Nic Lipscombe combining with the stunning guitar playing of Shaun Bessant to make a mightily tight outfit that sounds like a band who tour regularly, rather than perform once a year!

Newman’s real strength, however, is the catchy and memorable songs Steve writes, which are immediately infectious and just perfect for this sort of show, with choruses that stick in the mind from first listen and riffs and hooks that you crave to hear again and again – and today was no exception. ‘Heaven Knows’, ‘Primitive Soul’ and ‘Ghost In The Night’ shook the hangovers out of the audience who were more than a little sluggish at the dawn of day three of Firefest, before ‘Under Southern Skies’ from the band’s newest album of the same name proved that Steve’s song-writing just seems to be getting stronger and stronger.

Newman


With Bessant in full six-string flow, Newman who plays nearly all of the guitars in the studio, was left to be the consummate frontman – a role his is more comfortable with - cajoling the crowd to clap, sing and sway along at his command, although in fairness they didn’t take much convincing. ‘Stay With Me’ made for a clever change of pace, with its slower approach heightening the impact of the ultra catchy ‘If It’s Love’ before - in an impressive gesture - Far Cry’s Pete Fry is introduced to huge acclaim to add guitars and vocals to ‘Over And Over’. Whilst still putting in a solid performance Steve’s vocals weren’t quite as assured as last year, although in fairness his enthusiasm and stage charisma carried him through a couple of his stickier moments without too many mishaps.

After a storming set there was only one trump card left for Newman to play, which duly arrived in the shape of the simply fantastic ‘One Step Closer’, which had everyone in the room dancing and singing along, and it was great to get the chance to see Steve strap on a guitar to pull off a tasty solo to bring the song and set to a crescendo.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in the case of Newman getting the chance to see one of the most underrated acts in the world of Melodic Rock at two consecutive Firefests proved to be a hugely popular, if last minute choice. (SR)

White Widdow


The first band from Australia to appear at Firefest, and playing their first ever gig in the U.K., I’d been anticipating this set ever since I had the chance to review White Widdow’s debut album last year. Frontman Jules Millis had been coming over to attend the show for the last few years, as he revealed to the crowd “I’ve probably had a beer with most of you!” and he was also keen to point out how great it was to make the step up from audience member to performer. Jules admitted to me before the show that he was feeling a little nervous, but as the band launched into ‘Tokyo Rain’ it was not apparent at all, as Jules absolutely commanded the stage, and was full of confidence and energy, throwing every Rock Star shape in the book. For a band that doesn’t play too many shows, they proved to be an extraordinarily tight unit, with the songs carried along by the rhythm section of bassist Trent Wilson and drummer Jim Naish and with the melodies underpinned by the soaring keyboards of Xavier Millis. The Firefest stage has seen many a guitar hero in its time, but Enzo Almanzi has to be up there with the greats, as he fires off the first of many fiery but fluid solos. The sound isn’t great to begin with, as the impeccable backing vocals were louder than the lead vocals, but the issue was soon sorted out, and the band really began to hit their stride.

White-Widdow


The excellent new album ‘Serenade’ received a good airing with the melodic ‘Strangers In The Night’ and ‘Cry Wolf’, and noting the amount of people singing along White Widdow seem to have established an impressive following. During the Def Leppard-sounding ‘Do You Remember’ Jules took a trip through the photo pit to shake hands with as many of the crowd packed around the front as possible. They return to the debut for the first song they ever wrote ‘Change Of Passion’, then as they began ‘Cross To Bare’ Jules attempted a backwards leap off the drum riser, but lost his footing as he landed and nearly fell over, but quickly laughed the incident off. By now Trent and Enzo have visibly relaxed enough to move around the stage too (or, as much as their guitar leads would allow!), as the biggest eighties throwback of the set is performed: ‘Reckless Nights,’ with its Van Halen-inspired guitar riff.

The set is brought to a close with the awesome ‘Broken Hearts Won’t Last Forever’ allowing for a huge sing-along, but then it was all over way too soon. Hopefully White Widdow will have done enough to convince everybody they deserve to be invited back very soon, as I really don’t think Jules will want to go back to be merely a “punter” again! (AH)

Alien


There may have been more famous or celebrated vocalists at previous Firefests, including a few who have fronted some of the biggest bands to ever come from AOR or Melodic Rock circles. However in the end it was Alien front man Jim Jidhed who stood tall and proud as the best pure singer to hold a microphone during the weekend, putting in a simply stunning, pitch-perfect performance that set him out as one of the best singers I’ve ever seen on stage. Wearing a bowling shirt and with a less than rock and roll haircut, it could be argued that these days Jim looks more like darts player Phil “The Power” Taylor than a Rock God, but close your eyes and that voice will undoubtedly take you to Heaven.

That however was only half the story, as not only was this the first time that Alien had performed in the UK, but as they had been doing sporadically since coming back together in 2009, this was the full original Alien line up of Jidhed, Tony Borg (guitar), Ken Sandin (bass), Jimmy Wandroph (keyboards) and Toby Tarrach (drums) who graced us at Firefest! With a set made up almost exclusively from the tracks that made both the European and US versions of their self titled 1988 debut, there was never going to be any doubts over the quality of material at Alien’s disposal, nor was there even the slightest sign that they needed to blow away any cobwebs. Jidhed ran out to greet the crowd with a grin almost as wide as the stage he was standing on, while Borg absolutely tore into the opening of ‘Brave New Love’, although it was bassist Ken Sandin who really seemed to be revelling in reliving the band’s all too short glory years, pulling shapes and looking every inch the rock star and flicking his unfeasibly long pony-tail. Tarrach held everything together with a sublime ease behind the kit, while keyboard expert Wandroph provided the touch of sparkle needed to lift Alien far above the ordinary.

Alien


Rising over a mix that left the toms barely audible and the keyboards not quite as majestic as intended, tracks such as the insistent ‘Go Easy’ and uplifting ‘Tears Don’t Put Out The Fire’ had the crowd completely transfixed, although it was the band’s tender, restrained Swedish number one hit single ‘Only One Woman’ that rallied the loudest sing along of the weekend so far. For all the top notch musicianship on show, the most impressive aspect of the Alien live experience is just how easy they make it look. This was obviously a band that had reformed for the right reasons with the fun clearly visible on the stage joyfully emanating out into the audience.

Tony Borg got the chance to show off with a classy if somewhat needless guitar showcase which introduced the slow and easy ‘I’ve Been Waiting’ and while it may not be the most rousing set closer, there was never going to be any doubt that an encore was going to be demanded! A phenomenal version of ‘Touch My Fire’ once again highlighted the peerless vocals, although the combination of Borg’s guitars and Wandroph’s keyboards hit home with power and precision, before ‘Ready To Fly’, the only new song the band have recorded since their reformation brought a towering performance to a victorious end. (SR)

Kane Roberts


Having been a massive fan of Kane Roberts since the monstrous ‘Saints And Sinners’ back in 1991, and considering myself a personal friend, it was with a great sense of satisfaction that we finally managed to convince him to come out of his self-imposed semi-retirement and perform a set based mainly around that classic album. For me personally, this was going to be the highlight of my weekend, and it was with no small amount of trepidation that I waited for Kane to hit the stage for the first time is almost 15 years.

Opening with the one-two knockout combination of ‘Wild Nights’ and ‘Twisted’, the same opening salvo from ‘Saints And Sinners’, the crowd were certainly reacting well, but it was clear to many of us that something was just not quite right. The confidence of those years of playing in Alice Cooper’s band seemed to have evaporated, and Kane appeared a mere shell of his former self, not only physically but as a stage presence also. His backing band for tonight was LA’s Talon, who had performed admirably opening the Saturday show, but tonight the band remained static and with Kane almost seeming to hide behind his guitar.

Kane-Roberts


‘Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore’ (his hit ballad), came next, and was actually well suited to the more laid-back approach, before Alice Cooper’s ‘Freedom’ got the crowd pumped up once again. ‘I Want It Again’ was certainly not the track I would have chosen to play from Kane’s Phoenix Down project, although the almost snarled vocal suited Kane’s voice perfectly, but the crowd seemed a little restless by this point.

This was quickly remedied by the wonderful ‘Dance Little Sister’, where during the extended solo section Kane was joined on stage by two scantily clad young female dancers for a marvellously cheesy 80s moment, and the uplifting anthem ‘Rebel Heart’ kept the momentum going. The second Alice Cooper number of the night followed, with ‘Prince of Darkness’, another slightly downbeat number for the Firefest audience to take in, followed by a cover of KISS’ ‘Take it Off’, after which Kane left the stage 15 minutes before the end of his allotted time. The crowd waited patiently, hoping to get a taste of ‘Fighter’ or some other Kane Roberts classic, but in the end, that was it – a very understated and peculiar way to end a show.

So as said, a disappointing set compared to our expectations. Whether it was nerves, a lack of confidence or not enough rehearsing is unclear, but these songs are tailor-made to be massive, stadium rock crowd-pleasers, and tonight the performance was hesitant and under-stated, lacking the sheer gusto and exhilaration of Kane’s Alice Cooper years. That being said though, it is definitely good to have Kane Roberts back where he belongs, and as he confided in me afterwards, next time he will be better prepared and give a performance all his fans truly deserve. (BLM)
 

Mitch Malloy


If you were to put all the details of what the ideal rock star should be like into a computer, it would generate a picture of Mitch Malloy. The big man from North Dakota is tall, lean, with a huge mane of blond curls, chiselled good looks and pearly whites that dazzle, clearly visible even from my vantage point on the balcony. What makes his fellow man even more jealous is he doesn’t seem to have aged a day since his debut made him a pin up in 1992. Of course, the all-American good looks stand for nothing if you don’t have the musical chops to go with it, but Malloy has talent that’s as big as his smile. Malloy came out and got the crowd on his side from the off. The opening song ‘Mission Of Love’ could have been his mission statement for this performance.

He’s backed by an all-Italian band. It was good to see him share a stage with bassist Anna Portalupi, as she was one of only a very few women on stage over a weekend where the boys were otherwise in ascendancy. She locks in well with drummer Alessandro Mori, while Alessandro Del Vecchio, who is known in AOR circles for his work with Edge Of Forever and Moonstone Project to name but two, provided the keyboards while Mario Percudani, who was in Hungryheart and supplied guitar on the great Shining Line album, “is kicking ass on guitar”, as Malloy informed the crowd.

The set, not surprisingly, focused heavily on tracks from his debut but we got a few other choice tracks from his back catalogue plus a couple of new tracks from his brilliant ‘II’ record included as well. The result was a well-paced set and the big memorable choruses of ‘Falling To Pieces’ and ‘Stranded In The Middle Of Nowhere’ got the Sunday evening crowd going and singing along. Interestingly, he introduced ‘Over The Water’ as his personal favourite from his debut and it has a pleasingly bluesy throb. In good voice, his high pitched rock vocals had a hint of country in the mix too, making his tunes unmistakably his. ‘It’s About Love’ from the classy ‘Shine’ album allowed him to show off his winning way with a ballad. He played the new song ‘Carry On’ which he wrote for his father, whom he lost recently, and dedicated it to Gotthard’s Steve Lee who had also tragically died during the year. This sentiment was well received by an appreciative roar and the song went down well.

MitchMalloy


Standing with his legs apart, playing the great riff to ‘Love Song’, this was American radio rock at its best. He changed the pace again, slowing it down for ‘Our Love Will Never Die’ and it brought a hushed, intimate vibe to the performance but he and the band were soon off rocking again and when he sang ‘I’m The One’ you believe him. Having worked up a sweat he removed his shirt, and although he had a t-shirt underneath he still managed to get an audible yelp of appreciation from the female contingent in the crowd. The momentum is kept going as he took off his rhythm guitar, freeing him up to take the microphone and roam the stage, before sitting on the monitors at the front of the stage and singing to the crowd like he meant it and with them responding like they believe it.

An encore is a no-brainer and Malloy teased the audience with, “You want to hear some more?” before launching into his best known song ‘Anything At All’, which had large pockets of the crowd singing their hearts out, before finishing the set with ‘All My Friends’, a song he claimed, “…was written especially for you people”. This was probably true as he wrote ‘II’ knowing he was going to do this show.

There’s a lot of love in the room and Malloy said he loved us numerous times and you could tell he meant it as he looks genuinely shocked by the warm response he received. He threw his pick into the crowd, caught by an older woman at the front. “That’s my mom!” announced Malloy. Well, Mrs Malloy must have been proud of her son tonight. (DJ)

Coney Hatch  


There are several reasons why no-one thought that Canadian hard rockers Coney Hatch would ever play at Firefest, the main one being that Carl Dixon wasn’t expected to recover from a near-fatal car crash in 2008. Another is that bassist/vocalist Andy Curran has opted out of several of the band’s proposed reunions in the past, but here they were in 2011 with the original line-up, (completed by drummer Dave ‘Thumper’ Ketchum and guitarist Steve Shelski), playing in the UK for the first time in their career. One of only two acts this year without a keyboard player, the band just plugged in and went for it from the opening bars of the rocking ‘We Got The Night’, and from the outset Carl Dixon was in fine voice as the band delivered a liberal helping of all three of their original LP’s. The chemistry was immediately obvious with Ketchum’s pounding drums and Curran’s thundering bass, underneath the always interesting complementary guitar parts of Dixon and Shelski.

The first Hatch classic was the excellent ‘Don’t Say Make Me’, and it wasn’t long before Dixon’s pink shirt was soaked in sweat, while Curran, in a cool hat, endeared himself to the mostly AOR crowd by wearing a Boston t-shirt from the ‘Third Stage’ tour. The dynamics of the catchy ‘You Ain’t Got Me’ had the front three faultlessly delivering the backing vocals whilst swapping places with a stagecraft that only Silent Rage had hinted at all weekend. The rhythmic ‘Stand Up’ was Andy Curran’s first lead vocal of the night, its insistent groove being the other side of the coin to Carl Dixon’s more commercial songs. Obviously taken aback by the enthusiastic reception, the commercial ‘First Time For Everything’ had the crowd singing the chorus so loudly that the band almost stopped dead in their tracks, and by this time it’s obvious to both the band and crowd that something special was happening.

Coney-Hatch


Curran took the lead again on the acerbic ‘Love Poison’, spitting out the lyrics like he’s still the lean and hungry aspiring rock star that was regularly plastered across the pages of early issues of Kerrang! Crowd noise reached another high as Dixon announced the highly melodic ‘She’s Gone’, a real sleeper of a song that has grown to classic status in the twenty-six years since the release of the ‘Friction’ album – you would never guess that it’s rarely been played live and wasn’t being considered for inclusion until I convinced Carl otherwise in our interview for the Firefest programme. Another change of mood brought one of the more direct Curran songs, the pacy ‘Wrong Side Of Town’, and the ambience changed again as Dixon announced the one gentle moment in the set, the moving ‘To Feel That Feeling Again’, which brought back great memories of Dixon singing the song unaccompanied whilst re-stringing his acoustic guitar at the Sweden Rock Festival in 2004.

Many will remember ‘Hey Operator’ from Aldo Nova’s version of the song on his ‘Subject’ album, but the original is still better and it seemed to be the best known song of the set. It also showed how well Carl Dixon was singing as he made the high notes with ease, along with those of the following ‘Girl From Last Night’s Dream’, which he explained was inspired by a dream that guitarist Steve Shelski had. Shelski is a rarity among rock guitarists, being jazz influenced and favouring scales in his solos that somehow work despite going against the song structures. The Andy Curran-sung ‘Fallen Angel’ was a case in point, with tricky twin guitar parts and a solo that seemed to come at you from out of nowhere, whilst the highly commercial ‘Fantasy’ was probably their simplest and catchiest tune with Shelski playing the recorded keyboard notes on his guitar. Again the harmony vocals were augmented by a few hundred more.

The straight rocker ‘No Sleep Tonight’ kept up the pace until the familiar riff to ‘Devil’s Deck’ received the biggest cheer of the set, along with a decent sing along section in the middle. With only one song left it seemed most of the crowd were expecting ‘This Ain’t Love’, but instead we got ‘Monkey Bars’, one of their most popular hits back in Canada, which with its off-the-wall lyrics and bizarre guitar solo was perhaps a bit too left-field for all but the most die-hard fan. Nevertheless, Coney Hatch joined Jimi Jamison, W.E.T. and Alien amongst the star performers and possibly the tightest band of the whole festival. (PA)

Unruly Child


Over the years Firefest has rightly gained a reputation for springing surprises with the bands they can entice to play at what is surely now the world’s most prestigious melodic rock festival and Firefest 2011 was definitely no exception. However there’s little doubt that the biggest news for this year’s gathering was the appearance of AOR legends Unruly Child on a stage for the first time outside of the US - and their first with the original members of the band for some 19 years! Add to that the fact that this was also the first appearance on stage ever of Marcie Free and the level of anticipation in the venue prior to the band even stepping in front of the audience was palpable.

As the first band of the weekend to use an intro tape and with the keyboards of Guy Allison also being augmented by a laptop, it was probably inevitable that it took at least a couple of minutes for the “Firefest” emblazoned curtain to finally fall after the band were introduced (the first technical hitch of the entire weekend). However as the intro faded and the opening notes of ‘Love Is Blind’ kicked in, it was clear that even after three days of excellent music, Unruly Child were the band that many people had really turned up to see. With the song in full flow, it was time for Marcie Free to make her entrance and it has to be said that the reception she received from each and every person in the venue was really rather overwhelming. Dressed in a flowing, long black dress, which was very much from the Stevie Nicks collection, Marcie appeared visibly stunned by the warmth and emotion of her welcome and if ever there was an illustration of the togetherness and love within the melodic rock community that was it. I have to say it was something rather special to witness. However kicking off with five tracks from the band’s most recent release ‘Worlds Collide’ wasn’t what the masses had expected, or probably hoped for and while ‘Very First Time’ and ‘Tell Another Lie’ were classy, technical slices of AOR, the more rocked up ‘Show Me The Money’ didn’t convince in quite the same manner. The first number to be aired from the classic self-titled Unruly Child debut, ‘Lay Down Your Arms’ seemed to settle everybody down nicely, with guitarist Bruce Gowdy (whose face suggested he’d just won the lottery – twice) attacking the familiar White Widdowriff with vigour and verve, while Allison laid down a massive melodic backdrop.

Unruly-Child


Whatever else may have changed in the journey which has seen Mark Free take the decision to become Marcie Free, one thing certainly hasn’t and that is her ability to deliver lyrics with passion and emotion, making her performance completely convincing and captivating - yes the timbre of her voice may have evolved, but then after nearly two decades, name any singer whose delivery hasn’t. With all of the other four band members also contributing to backing vocals, one of the most impressive aspects to the Unruly Child live experience was definitely the harmonies and warmth they provided, something which ‘When Worlds Collide’ and ‘You Don’t Understand’ benefited from hugely. A bass and drum workout from the incredibly talented Larry Antonino and Jay Schellen gave both the chance to shine, although it did little to help the flow of the set (something some of my fellow Fireworks contributors had more of a problem with than I did), before a storming version of ‘Take Me Down Nasty’ brought everything right back up to speed. Carried away with her emotions, Marcie’s in between song chat was all about love and understanding and while she did have to refer to a song-book for some lyrics and took the odd swig from a flask (not very Rock ‘n’ Roll) her vocals on set closer ‘Who Cries Now’ were nothing short of phenomenal. A well deserved encore saw the band rock it up with ‘On The Rise’, before the fittingly titled ‘When We Were Young’ brought the close to a memorable, historic set.

Unruly Child may not quite have been the best band of the weekend – those honours for me went to Coney Hatch, Alien and W.E.T., but they certainly sent everyone home satisfied and in the knowledge that they had seen something pretty special. (SR)

Thus another Firefest was over, and as the crowd drifted away from what clearly counted as the most successful festival musically and organisationally in its eight year history, talk was already starting to focus on what surprises the organisers might have in store for Firefest 2012. While attendances for the Saturday and Sunday shows were slightly lower than in 2010, they were still exceedingly healthy for a genre of music that had been considered all but dead. What made Firefest a truly remarkable occasion once again was its ability to provide a unique mixture highlighting some of the very best new melodic rock bands with some proven favourites alongside bands whose likelihood of ever appearing live in Britain again (or for the first time!) had been thought extremely unlikely… (PJS)


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This review will be published in the full colour, glossy Fireworks Magazine Issue #49, on sale on Dec 16th and available at selected WHSmiths, McColl's and Martin stores (store locator) or direct from the Fireworks Magazine Mini Shop..

As well as this fully illustrated review, Fireworks #49 also features interviews with Glenn Hughes, Brian Howe, Richie Kotzen, Ten, LA Guns, Royal Hunt, Riot, The Magnificent, Reckless Love, Vain and many more. Fireworks also includes in depth reviews of all the latest releases, reissues, DVDs and live concerts.

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Comments (2)add comment

LeChef said:

...
Nice review, looking forward to meet some Rocktopians at Firefest 2012! smilies/grin.gif
 
September 25, 2012
Votes: +2

aorking said:

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Great review. Shame I can't take the days off to be at Firefest 2012 ... smilies/sad.gif
 
October 16, 2012
Votes: +0

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